REVIEW: SONY VPL-VW760ES 4K HDR LASER PROJECTOR
As an ISF certified calibrator, I’ve worked with some impressive looking projectors and TV’s, but there’s always the standouts. Will Sony's VPL-VW760ES 4K HDR Laser Projector join this growing list? Read on.
4K HDR Laser Projector
$22,999 (AUD) RRP
As you’ve probably already discovered, the general population doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm for home theatre gear as we do.
However, knowing your fanatical interest in home cinema generally makes you the ‘go-to person’ for any questions relating to televisions, stereo systems and anything in-between.
“I’m looking at getting a new TV when they go on sale, which one would you recommend?” “Hang on. Aren’t they expensive?” “I don’t want to spend that much, and I don’t need all that ‘smart stuff’ I want to get a perfect picture. Which one would you buy?”
And the number one question I often get asked is “What’s the best picture you’ve ever seen, irrespective of price?”.
As an ISF certified calibrator, I’ve worked with some impressive looking projectors and TV’s, but there’s always the standouts. Examples that come to mind are the first SIM2 projector I laid my eyes on, any OLED television, and the first 4K Sony projector that I calibrated.
Sony offers eight 4K projectors starting with the VPL-VW260ES ($7,999) and ending with the goliath VPL-VW5000ES, which comes in at a lofty $90,000. While the VPL-VW760ES we’re reviewing doesn't cost $90,000, it’s still going to set you back a cool $22,999 RRP.
At this kind of price, you’d hope the VPL-VW760ES is sporting some serious credentials! Being involved in almost every facet of the movie-making industry, by default Sony has a wealth of knowledge and resources to draw on.
In fact, in 2014 it was estimated that Sony’s 4K commercial cinema projectors could be found in 22,000 cinemas around the world.
Like all of Sony’s 4K home theatre projectors, the VPL-VW760ES shares many of the technologies found in Sony’s commercial cinema projectors.
This becomes more apparent the further you move up the range, with its home theatre projectors more closely resemble cinema projectors.
Continuing with its heritage, the VPL-VW760ES has ‘cinema grade 4k resolution’ of 4096 x 2160. While UHD is also referred to as 4K, it actually has a resolution of 3,840 x 2160, just shy of 4K.
The other thing that sets Sony’s projectors apart is that they don’t use pixel shifting or any other form of visual wizardry to create a 4K image. Each of its three SXRD chips having a native resolution of 4096 x 2160.
To take advantage of the roughly half a million extra pixels the VPL-VW760ES has to offer you’re going to need an actual 4K source. Otherwise, it will display a resolution of 3,840 x 2160 with UHD content.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
The VPL-VW760ES is a laser projector, which incorporates Sony’s Z-Phospher laser diode which is quoted as being able to produce 2,000 lumens.
While initially more expensive, there are several key advantages to using a laser light source. For one, the life-span of the laser is longer than a bulb, with an estimated 20,000 hours of virtually maintenance-free viewing at 100% brightness.
It’s difficult to test the veracity of this claim given the short loan period we have for reviews but suffice to say, it’s more likely that you’re going to upgrade the projector before needing to replace the laser.
In addition to longer-lifespans, lasers are also capable of producing a broader range of the visible colour spectrum.
Sony’s Z-Phospher laser is dynamic in nature. This means the VPL-VW760 is able to eschew a dynamic iris, as the laser automatically dims darker parts of the picture. This makes the VPL-VW760 ES capable of producing deeper and darker blacks, without visible changes of brightness.
As you would expect, the 760 will accept virtually any signal you care to throw its way including HFR (high frame rate) video sources.
There’s also a low latency mode for gaming, however, as it bypasses a lot of the image enhancement circuitry you should avoid this though when watching movies.
Measuring 560mm wide, 496mm deep and weighing 20kg the 760 isn’t the biggest projector I've seen. However, it’s still a big beasty! If you don’t have the 760ES professionally installed and I strongly recommend you do, make sure you’ve got plenty of help on hand.
Available in black finish only, the VPL-VW760ES has a centrally mounted lens, while its forward facing grills used for ventilation/ air-intake. Powered lens control, focus, zoom and horizontal/vertical left shift can be adjusted directly from the remote.
The VPL-VW760ES’ side-facing connector panel has 2 HDCP 2.2 HDMI inputs, 1 Ethernet port, 2x 12-volt triggers, 1 IR input, an RS232 port and a single USB input.
The accompanying remote is the same as found with all of Sony’s projectors. The remote’s simple enough to use with all of the 760’s needed functions easily accessible.
While the VPL-VW760ES is a 3D projector, 3D glasses aren’t included and need to be purchased separately. This seems to have become common practice amongst manufacturers.
When it comes to installation, the VPL-VW760ES is quite flexible. This is thanks to both its throw ratio (the VPL-VW760ES can fill a 100” screen from 2.54 meters) and lens shift controls, which provide a vertical shift of +85% -80% and horizontal shift of +/-31%.
Another benefit of a powered lens control is that it’s able to provide a higher level of precision than a manual lens control. This indeed was my experience with the VPL-VW760ES allowing me to both accurately place and focus the image on a 140” screen.
Sony has wisely omitted keystone correction with the VPL-VW760ES. It’s not necessary given the scope of the lens shift controls, nor is it a good idea, as it has a detrimental effect on picture quality.
The VPL-VW760ES has three SXRD chips, so to get the sharpest image possible, panel alignment should be completed. The 760 has controls to adjust the alignment of the whole picture and individual zones for added fine-tuning.
Your installer should take care of all of this for you though.
MEASURED PERFORMANCE AND CALIBRATION
Picture settings can have a massive impact on the image of a projector or television. It can be tempting to judge the image quality of a projector or tv in such areas as colour production or shadow detail, when more often than not the display merely needs proper calibration.
Measurements were performed with an i1Pro 2 Spectroradiometer and/or x-rite display 3 Pro colourimeter, profiled with the i1Pro 2. Both meters were tripod mounted, and measurements were taken directly taken from a 140” 16.9 Screen Technics screen.
All greyscale/gamma and colour readings were taken using 10% window patterns. Every measurement was made from the mean of three readings, for consistency and to reduce anomalies.
Before calibration, the VPL-VW760ES measured 30 foot-lamberts/103 nits with the projector set to Reference picture mode. This is getting very close to the sort of number you want from a flat panel TV for HD/SDR viewing.
Not at all bad, especially when you consider the measurements were taken from a 140” screen.
With the picture controls left in their default position, all of the picture modes yielded similar results. Bright TV being the brightest at 32 foot-lamberts/110 nits. However, with a greyscale dominated by blue/green and erratic gamma behaviour, this picture mode should be avoided.
In Reference mode, the VPL-VW760ES exhibited excellent colour performance, faithfully adhering to the Rec. 709 (HD colour standard).
Except for white, the highest colour error was 1.3 dE in both green and cyan. This level of accuracy makes the Reference mode both worthy of its moniker and an excellent starting point for calibration.
The VPL-VW760ES’s greyscale did exhibit a slight cyan push. Calibration not only rectified this but also improved gamma tracking.
The VPL-VW760ES automatically detects UHD content and shifts its colour gamut from Rec. 709 to Rec. 2020. In addition, a separate contrast control for HDR and HDR 10 and HLG gamma (more correctly referred to as EOTF) becomes available.
After calibration, the combination of laser light settings which I used resulted in light output of about 30 foot-lamberts or about 102 nits in Reference mode. While I did experiment with a range of numbers, 30 foot-lamberts seemed about right with actual viewing content.
What did surprise me, however, was the colour gamut, which I measured as 103.7% of the Rec. 709 gamut or 76.5% of DCI and 54.9% of Rec 2020. I expected the VPL-VW760ES would have displayed more of the DCI gamut.
I don’t know about you, but to date, my experience with UHD material has been mixed. Some of the best discs I’ve seen have been mastered in HDR. Some, however, have left a lot to be desired…
Billy Lyn’s Long Halftime Walk certainly falls into the former category, with a superb HDR transfer shot at 60 frames per second. Cue this up on the Sony, and you're going to realise why the VPL-VW760ES commands the asking price that it does, as the 760 producing images that are nothing short of stunning.
One of the most striking aspects of the image produced is the resolution. Images are razor sharp with a level of detail that can leave you shaking your head in disbelief. With this level of detail, you want to match the VPL-VW760ES with the biggest screen possible to appreciate as much of it as possible.
When it comes to black levels, Sony’s projectors have come a long way. The VPL-VW760ES produced first-class black levels. The black levels, combined with high light output, excellent gamma tracking and resolution created images that not only had a superb sense of depth and tangibility but a real pop.
Combined with its high light output, excellent gamma tracking and resolution resulted in images which not only had a superb sense of depth and tangibility, but also an excellent sense of pop (technical term!).
Switching to the UltraHD/HDR transfer of Deadpool yielded similar results. In addition to razor-sharp images, the 760 did a great job of bringing out spectacular highlights in explosions and flames, which like the extra resolution, can't be found on the Blu-ray transfer.
While the 760 couldn’t bring out the same range of colours as the BenQ X12000 we reviewed last year, there was indeed something ‘extra’ an offer here. Wanting to be sure it wasn’t just my imagination, I switched to the HDR transfer of Mad Max Fury Road.
I’ve experienced the HD and HDR transfers of Mad Max Fury Road on many displays capable of producing a broader range of the DCI gamut than the VPL-VW760ES. However, despite the 760’s smaller colour gamut, it still produced a broader range of colour than I expected and that I would have typically given it credit for.
Regardless of the viewing material, colour on the VPL-VW760ES was spot on, with colours and flesh tones appearing both natural and convincing.
All of these characteristics carried over rather nicely to HD/SDR viewing, with the Sony producing images that were both rock solid and sharper than what is possible from Blu-ray content on a 1080p projector.
It would seem that Sony’s decades of commercial cinema experience has been brought to bear creating the VPL-VW760ES. Razor sharp images loaded with extra detail, excellent black levels and accurate colour reproduction come together to create simply stunning images.
In other words, this projector creates some of the best images I have ever seen from a projector, irrespective of price.
For this reason, Sony’s VPL-VW760ES effortlessly wins a Best in Class award.
For more information visit Sony.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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